Jeremy Johnson, convicted businessman tied to Utah political scandal, is released from prison

Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo Jeremy Johnson walks to Federal Court in Salt Lake City in this 2017 file photo, accompanied by his wife, Sharla, and lawyer Mary Coporon.

Jeremy Johnson, the St. George businessman convicted of making false statements to banks, has been released from prison 23 months early, according to his Facebook posts.

Johnson, 44, posted a photo Friday night showing him standing beside his wife and two children in front of a small airplane.

“The rumors are true!” Johnson wrote. “So so so happy to be home.”

Someone replied to the post saying they thought he had two more years in prison.

“I did but they let me out early due to coronavirus,” Johnson answered.

Johnson’s explanation could not be confirmed Monday night. A federal inmate website shows he is still located at a federal halfway house in Phoenix with a release date of April 10, 2022.

However, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has been releasing some offenders to home confinement in order to reduce the inmate population during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Jeremy Johnson leaves the Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City Wednesday November 25, 2015.

When reached over a messaging platform Monday night, Johnson declined to comment, saying terms of his release do not allow him to give interviews without permission of the staff supervising his release.

Johnson’s early release is the latest development in a criminal and political saga that began in 2010, when the Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation of Johnson’s company iWorks, which was selling information such as how to apply for government grants for personal expenses and how to earn income from Google AdWords.

Johnson and two associates were indicted in 2011 on fraud and conspiracy counts. Then in 2013, then-newly elected Utah Attorney General John Swallow allegedly took part in a plot to bribe a powerful senator on Johnson’s behalf. Swallow denied involvement.

Swallow and former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff faced multiple criminal charges related to an alleged pay-to-play scheme in the attorney general’s office — but neither man was convicted. A prosecutor dropped the case against Shurtleff and Swallow was acquitted at trial.

As for Johnson, a jury in 2016 convicted him of counts of providing false information to Wells Fargo Bank but acquitted him of 78 other charges that included bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Former iWorks manager Ryan Riddle was convicted of providing false information to Wells Fargo, too, while accountant Scott Leavitt was acquitted of all 86 charges. Prosecutors said the false statements were made to obtain merchant accounts that were used to collect credit card payments for the marketing company’s products after its other accounts were shut down because of excessive chargebacks by consumers.

Johnson was sentenced to 11 years in prison and Riddle to five. Both men had those sentences reduced on appealJohnson was re-sentenced to seven years; Riddle’s term was reduced to four years. Federal prison records show Riddle was released in May 2019.

One of Johnson’s well-wishers on Facebook told him to live an honest life and not rip off anyone.

“Okay,” he replied. “I will try but it’s hard for me.”

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